You can almost hear the moans coming from almost every high end smartphone manufacturer in the world. After years of legal wrangling, Apple was awarded U.S. patent number 7,966,578 for:
"[a] computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, [that] comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display."
The patent stated above was applied for on December 2007 and now with it’s approval, gives Apple complete ownership of the capacitive multitouch interface technology that virtually everyone uses to build their high end smartphones.
According to pcmag.com, the patent has potential to reach even further than just the smartphone device platform and capacitive touch screens but could also have effects on anything using finger swiping that could be used in tablets and personal media players that would compete with the iPad and iPod devices.
What does this mean? It could seriously give Apple a huge bat to swing to create even more litigation against competitors like Samsung and HTC and potentially stifle innovation or charge royalties that might see device costs increase.
There does seem to be some breathing room for competitive device manufactures to find some relief and possible loop holes to escape the Apple Legal Team’s relentless pursuit of litigation against anything it deems remotely infringing upon it’s intellectual property. According to Florian Mueller, “an award-winning intellectual property activist with 25 years of software industry expertise who blogs at Foss Patents,”:
"The way to read a patent claim is that it’s only infringed if the accused technology is implemented in its entirety—all of the characteristics must be matched," he said.
"In this case, large parts of the independent claims 1 and 2 describe a smartphone, but there are also specific references to the ‘translation’ (in terms of relocation) of touchscreen contents with a touch gesture. Only a smartphone providing that functionality could be accused of infringement."
We will see how far Apple wants to take this new patent for a ride and pursue litigation against almost every device manufacturer building high end smartphones today. Conceivably, Apple could force smartphone manufacturers to stop distributing their devices which have capacitive multitouch user interface technology on them here in the United States. I cannot imaging this happening and see Apple taking the low road and collecting settlements and royalties to further bulge their profit margins for a long time to come.
Stay tuned, this story will definitely continue.